Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced that she would override the decision by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, to continue to hold part of the $147 million congress appropriated to the Palestinians last year. Ros-Lehtinen recently agreed to release her hold on part of the funds – $88 million – with some restrictions: Ros-Lehtinen stipulated that the money not be used for assistance in Gaza or for road construction projects in the West Bank, except if directly related to security. She also denied use for trade facilitation, tourism promotion, scholarships for Palestinian students and other aid for Palestinian Authority agencies and ministries.
According to an unnamed State Department official, “the funds deliver ‘critical support to the Palestinian people and those leaders seeking to combat extremism within their society and build a more stable future. Without funding, our programs risk cancellation,’ the official, who was not authorized to speak about the issue, said in an e-mail. ‘Such an occurrence would undermine the progress that has been made in recent years in building Palestinian institutions and improving stability, security, and economic prospects, which benefits Israelis and Palestinians alike,’ the official said.
The move drew criticism from some, who said it was an abuse of executive branch power, and praise from others who said that one or two people should not be able to inhibit the will of a congressional vote.